(Sennsei Wazizu shows steps in animal candy-making. Photo by Bong Lacson)
TOKYO, Japan – It looks fun and easy. That is, if you are a spectator.
But as I soon found out, it takes more than a clear understanding of the process, dexterity of fingers, creativity, practice and a lot of concentration to create Amezaiku, the traditional Japanese craft of candy sculpting dating back to a thousand years.
Part of our Tokyo familiarization tour here, hosted by the Japan National Tourism Organization in partnership with Cebu Pacific, was a peek at Amezaiku, located in a nondescript shop at the Skytree town.
Wazizu or eagle head as his assistant would tell us, is our sensei (teacher) in the workshop, a small room with tables and chairs, but our group of 13 was easily accommodated.
Sennsei Wazizu, a handsome, tall, lean Japanese man of about 35 years is all business. He speaks no English but our guide, Mina Jibu, translated everything for us.
“You must start by shaping the candy into a pear shape and then create two mountain shape forms which will form the ears,” he said.
(The author crafting his masterpiece.)
Wazizu explained that a white rabbit is the easiest to make since rabbit ears can easily be made out and would be clearly identifiable to that of a rabbit.
A live demonstration by Wazizu made it look so easy. But for us, two practice rounds were not enough as I made what looked like a totally new animal or goldfish species while the others created monsters straight out of horror movies.
But as I fancy my unique creation, I realized it was I who crafted a monster after all.
All things said, it was a truly unique and humorous experience for all of us.
Now on to the second round.
Again, Sensei Wazizu distributed candy balls attached to a stick to all of us.
Once taken out of the pot, the candy will start to immediately cool giving only a small window of opportunity, about three minutes, to create the desired shape before it hardens.
There is no room for mistake once you cut it, you cannot put it back.
This time, I’m sure, I created a rabbit or a new species of rabbit to be more precise.
As for the others, there was still no improvement. The room reverberated with laughter once again with sensei Wazizu shaking bis head.
Our creations – silly things on a stick. No way for rabbit ringers.
However, we were all confident that in the third and final round, we would all learn from our mistakes and make a white rabbit, the candy color being white, or at least a semblance of a bunny.
But lo and behold, this time I did make a rabbit. A rabbit’s foot I presumed.
This is the one that I brought home to the Philippines, believe it or not. It’s now safely stashed somewhere in the ref at home. Sensei said it could last for up to a year in the fridge. Well…
In a nutshell, Amezaiku is created by heating candy to around 70 degrees centigrade and shaped while soft with bare hands and traditional Japanese scissors before it hardened.
A word of caution. It’s still a bit hot when handled.
Amezaiku is the traditional Japanese craft of candy sculpting. It was popularized in the Edo period when the craftsmen took to the streets to perform and sell their Amezaiku in front of the masses who could watch and enjoy the process.
The finished products will amaze even the skeptics as animals and even insects come alive as they emerged complete with every detail. It’s totally entertaining.
It was indeed a worthwhile experience while in this capital city of courteous and beautiful people in the land of the rising sun.